Getting started

Don't expect words of wisdom or earth shattering revelations, just my thoughts and observations about living in Ottawa, being a public servant and trying to live life every day to its fullest

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rebuilding after a storm?

Earlier this week I watched and waited as Sandy took her tool on much of the East. Canada was lucky - New York City and parts of the US coast not so much. As I watched the Twitter feeds, surfed the breaking news and hoped the radio would bring me the latest I was reminded of storm watching when I was a kid.

In Hong Kong, we were frequently hit by typhoons (the Pacific equivalent of a hurricane). Granted, ours never took on the size or power of Sandy, Irene or Rita - but there were still devastating and would cause total shut-downs the most vibrant city in the world. Landslides, beach roads washed away, boats sunk, small children washed out to sea; the power of nature would slowly be revealed, first through massive waves and wind and then by the stillness as you enter the eye of the storm. There is something incredible about sitting in the eye - venturing outside as the world quiets, destruction around you but a stillness as everyone, including the storm, holds their breath. As a small child I was terrified and in awe of these massive storms that would sweep over the tiny little colony.

In Hong Kong in the 80's and 90's there was no internet, there was no way of capturing real-time updates across the city. There was radio. A typhoon was the one time we had the radio on all day, listening to the warning signals, the landslide warnings, the opening of emergency shelters and the exact location of the storm. My family would track it on a laminated map my parents had made, comparing it to the last typhoon and wondering if we would take a direct hit. And then after the hit, we would listen as the world woke up to deal with rebuilding or salvaging. We would drive to the marina and count how many boats had sunk, we would drive past hills that had slipped away or beach roads covered in sand. Despite the wonders of human ingenuity and engineering, nature usually won a few solid points.

When I think about storms these days, I think about the storm metaphors we use. I do think storms are an incredible metaphor for life - these are reminders that we need to be ready, we need to be resilient and that we will be hit, occasionally directly. Storms are an opportunity to rebuild and re-evaluate and I feel that I am in the eye of one right now. I am slowing down, I am looking around me and I am trying to make some life decisions that have been precipitated  because of storm-like turmoil. I know things will be messy on the other side as well, but that the opportunity to create something new and better is only possible after a massive storm because we are often given a clean slate. These are hard times, but can be rewarding - reminding you what is important and that we are lucky, so very lucky to come out of the eye.

I miss a good typhoon. I am sure that this is a terrible thing to say as Sandy is still too fresh and there is so much work to be done to rebuild, but it is also a humbling reminder of our place on this planet and how nature can't be controlled. And a kick-in-the-ass reminder to stop taking things for granted and start rebuilding.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Networks and friends

The best thing that has come from 6-plus years with the Federal Public Service has been the people. They are smart and dedicated and really want to change things. They have great ideas and energy, and they understand why I am where I am. They are my rock, my guides, they are my reality check and possibly co-conspirators. Dreaming up ideas is only useful if there are people who are going to support you, dare you, or point out why, perhaps, it is actually not a good idea!

No secret - I want to leave. I will leave. I have made up my mind and there is probably very little that will change this in the long-term. The short-term and medium-term are different stories. So what happens in the short-term or the medium-term? I continue to take the space and time for me to figure things out. The process of self-discovery has been hard, it has also been eye-opening. It requires a level of honestly with myself that I am still hesitant to commit to, it requires me to open up and explores my hopes, dreams and failings.

The most important part of this journey so far has been the people. The incredible individuals who have stepped up and provided insight into who they think I am, what I can do and where I can go. They force me see myself as someone other than who I thought I was, and I have been shown the incredible opportunities that are in front of me.

I have mentors out there who have shown me what it means to be a visionary, a leader, and to take an interest and make it into an opportunity. These are people from whom I can learn; people who have experiences from which I can gain, people who have energy and excitement for something be it their day-job, their hobbies, their families, the future, or life itself. These are people in the cubicle next to me, half the world away in a corner office, or riding a bike down a trail somewhere.

I am lucky enough now to have a small support group, a kind of public-servant anonymous; helping each other figure out what to do next. This doesn't necessarily mean leaving for all of us, but we are creating a space where we can each be honest with ourselves and challenge each other with assumptions that we have held about where we can go and the reality of each of our individual situations. 

I have an inspiring woman guiding my journey, pointing out when I try and deceive myself with vague notions of who I am. Questioning what I have identified as my personal values; not because they are wrong - but because they are not actually my values. She has helped me see why I react the way I do, what motivates me and who I really am. Did I know these things? Possibly? Was I willing to admit them to myself? No! Would I have shared these things with others? Never.

This network of incredible people can only take me so far. These friends who have stepped up and are willing to be part of this journey cannot carry me, they can challenge me and push my boundaries, but at the end of the day, I am responsible.

Here is the crux - I am afraid of failure. Part of the problem is I have actually never defined what success is and so instead I have tried to live up to others' perceptions of success, which may be appropriate for them but is most definitely not appropriate for me. This incredible group of people around me, my network and my friends are showing me that I need to figure out what being successful means to me and that if I believe in myself, I can probably do anything.

What if I fail? Maybe it doesn't matter - as long as I tired.